Operations

Why Relationships = Revenues

Bill Atkins
Posted on March 23, 2017

Apple stores draw a heavy, loyal repeat customer crowd because it values talking to them instead of passing them off to machines, websites, and phone trees (LCT photo).
Apple stores draw a heavy, loyal repeat customer crowd because it values talking to them instead of passing them off to machines, websites, and phone trees (LCT photo).
Let’s face it; It’s competitive out there. Transportation network companies (TNCs) and apps disrupt the marketplace and compete for our customers. Inexperienced, random people have started electronic hitchhiking using their cars by having people find them on an app.

We are continually seeing more about how you should automate everything. Customers often don’t talk to real people anymore. They go to apps and do everything immediately without really knowing with whom they’re doing business.

When Tech Runs Cold
Many limousine services are trying to adapt to this new way of business. For many, this seems like the end of their companies and livelihoods. Or is it?

The problem with technology replacing traditional service means the “people part” of the service is missing. How frustrating when you have a question and the business you are trying to reach has no contact information. No phone number. No live person to help you if you have a question or want to do business with them. No one is around to help.

Some traditional services have actually been calling themselves a technology company and creating many different ways to avoid speaking with you, their customers. That’s awful service. People are picking up their smartphones and touching a few buttons and trying to do business with the unknown.

An Apple Approach Every Day
Let’s think about some companies we know and how they do business. Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world. Many might say Apple is a tech company. True, but it’s so much more. You can order an Apple computer online and it will be shipped to your door. Why do their customers pay three times the price for a mac than a PC? It’s the people at Apple.

Recently when taking a walk through a local mall a few weeks before the Christmas holiday, many stores were empty. Except for one. The Apple store was packed. You see Apple’s goal is to build a relationship with its customers. It works. Apple stores have sales of $6,000 per square foot, twice the next retailer Tiffany’s which does less than $3,000 per square foot. Why? Apple knows it’s the experience customers want.

Apple doesn’t have sales clerks. They have “geniuses” to help you with your experience. You can call Apple 24 hours a day at 800-MYAPPLE and a live person will answer and help you. People wait outside Apple stores for days in advance of a new product, eager to pay a full premium price for a product they’ve never seen or held in their hands. 

Fly The Raving Skies 
Another company to consider is Southwest Airlines, which gets a lot of attention for its friendly customer service staff. Customers rave about the way they were treated when flying on Southwest. You don’t normally hear people raving about service when traveling on many airlines.

Airlines must use technology for behind the scenes aircraft usage and route scheduling, but that’s not what people are raving about. Their competitors use the same technology to figure the fuel costs and operations to minimize operating expenses. Southwest is known for its amazing people, not their technology.

So many operators are missing a great opportunity. There is value in relationships. A business will make a lot more sales and profit with repeat customers willing to pay a premium price, too. Always consider the lifetime value of a customer.

Remember when you could call any business and always talk to a friendly voice that made you picture an employee like this? Customers yearn for such service in a tech overdrive world, and limousine companies can provide it far better than TNCs (LCT file photo)
Remember when you could call any business and always talk to a friendly voice that made you picture an employee like this? Customers yearn for such service in a tech overdrive world, and limousine companies can provide it far better than TNCs (LCT file photo)
Hire Right 
It starts with recruiting the right employees for your company. Hire friendly people with great attitudes. You can train for the technical part of the job, but start with good people first.

Next, talk about and train your employees in your business culture. Give specific examples of what great customer service looks like. Create training videos or hire someone who can do them for you, so every employee has the exact same information and practices.

This is a big difference where TNC app companies can never match you. They can’t train their people, so their service delivery is inconsistent. You can get a different experience every time you take a chance using a TNC, as they lack adequate training.

Constant Contact 
We love new technology. But there’s fear too many businesses try every way to avoid talking with their customers. Do you have contact information where your customer can call and talk to a live person? Or is there only a “contact us” form to fill out? You’ll never know how many customers you turned away by not having a real person answer their calls. People buy from people. An app doesn’t have a friendly personality or empathy.

Your customer has choices. If you don’t make it easy for your customer to talk to you, someone else will. Once you signal to your customers you don’t want to speak with them anymore, they will look for someone who does, maybe one of your competitors. You are frustrating your customer when you don’t have an easy way to reach you in person.

After all, customers expect limousine services to be more attentive and act better than an unknown website, app, or some guy moonlighting in his personal car. You can succeed to new heights by remembering not to take the “person” out of personalized service your customer expects and deserves.

Speaker and consultant Bill Atkins started and owned Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.J., for 30 years until he sold it in 2016. He is now an area director with Toastmasters International and serves as a SBA SCORE Certified Business Mentor. Bill also serves on the LCT Magazine Advisory Board and was a 2010 LCT Operator of the Year. He can be reached at [email protected]

Related Topics: Bill Atkins, building your clientele, client markets, customer service, How To

Comments ( 1 )
  • john michael

     | about 2 years ago

    Touchy fleely, that is the business we are in. Well written article, very true words. Let them burn up my phone, I'll love it.

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